YREKA, Calif. — Several hundred public employees of Siskiyou County are preparing to strike at the beginning of next week, according to a union representative. The Organized Employees of Siskiyou County (OESC) says that County officials have slashed contributions to employee medical insurance.
"The County has not budged in its position to cut its payment for family medical insurance over $500 per month," said Steve Allen, a labor relations negotiator with Goyette & Associates, representing OESC. "The Board of Supervisors continues to pay itself $300 per month deferred compensation while offering most of OESC positions zero. This strike is about fair treatment."
Representatives for OESC and the County met last week in an effort to reach a deal. A statement from Allen issued on Monday morning indicated that a deal had not been reached, and workers were ready for a five-day strike beginning next Monday.
However, Allen noted, there was at least one further wrinkle. California law allows public employees to strike unless their absence would cause “substantial and imminent threat to the health or safety of the public” — wording that generally applies to firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other essential personnel.
"One of the threshold issues in California public employee strikes is an assessment of whether or not the employer, Siskiyou County in this case, wants to restrict employees from striking on the imminent threat basis," Allen said. "Siskiyou County is, in fact, currently requesting such determination from the Public Employment Relations Board."
The employees currently fighting for improved benefits from the County are represented by OESC in the "Miscellaneous, Professional, and Management" units. With the County lobbying the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to establish that some or all of these employees are essential personnel, it will be up to the Board's decision whether they will be able to strike.